Back in Halifax after wandering around Malaysia (and Indonesia) for a few weeks. Here’s the link to my facebook photo album: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2526667&id=28104985&l=9180da6acc
Here’s a brief synopsis:
I flew Ottawa-London-Bahrain-Kuala Lumpur, where I waited around and met Ryan at the airport. The four hours of waiting for his flight to land were excruciating, but it was so exciting to see him again, finally :)
We spent a few days exploring KL, which was actually sort of a challenge, since it’s mostly mega-malls. But we went to the bird park at the Lake Gardens, where I saw my first cassowary! (I have a thing for cassowaries.) We went out to the Batu Caves, just outside the city, which is a really neat Hindu site, and climbed the 250 steps to the top. There were shrines and things inside the caves, and nasty little monkeys wrestling on the staircase. (See photos for visualization.)
We flew from KL to Denpasar in Bali, and drove from there straight up to Ubud. We stayed at a nice little home stay, right on a rice paddy, and had our morning coffee on the terrace, watching herons wading. Bali was great – the food was awesome (and extremely vegetarian friendly), the beer was cheap, and Ubud is really beautiful. I mean, it’s quite touristy and filled with shops, but the architecture is just so pretty, and the people were so friendly, and on the street you’re always stepping over little woven boxes filled with flowers and candies and bits of rice – daily offerings to ancestors. I thought it was lovely. They have a beautiful, if slightly overgrown, Botanical Garden. We went on a (mostly downhill) cycling tour of the area one day, during which we walked around inside one of the traditional family compounds, learned about rice farming, and ate an incredible meal. Our guide was awesome – an eager young guy who spoke really good English and explained everything really well. That was definitely a highlight. And at the end of it, we went into the Monkey Forest Sanctuary in Ubud, which was a weird forest park with gorgeous moss-covered statues, and long-tailed macaques lounging about and grabbing food from people’s pockets and bags. We went to a different Balinese dance performance every night, and went to the impressive Neka Art Museum, and then spent our last day and night in Bali in Sanur. Sanur is on the coast, and has a million big hotels along the white sand beach. We paid 2 dollars or something to rent chairs and an umbrella in front of one of the hotels, and read and lounged there all afternoon. Only afterwards did I realize that the umbrella was really useless for protection, and only created the illusion of shade – my whole body was red, and I was up all night taking icy showers and cursing the sun. (It has since faded to golden brown, and my freckle population is flourishing.)
We spent one day and night in KL. We headed out to wander and found ourselves at the bottom of Menara KL tower (I think Menara might mean “tower”), and a guy handed us a flyer saying that if we paid 40 ringgit to go up instead of the usual 38 (or thereabouts), we could go to the revolving restaurant and have an ice cream. Duh. So we did that, which made me feel better about not waiting in line to get elevator tickets to go up to the SkyBridge of the Petronas Towers. We had an incredible view of the city, and there really are some bizarre high-rises in KL.
The next day, we flew to Miri, in Sarawak, which is in the Malaysian part of Borneo. We waited around for a flight up to Mulu, home of Gunung Mulu National Park. The flight was only about 2o minutes, but it’s really the only easy way to get there – there aren’t any roads, and the river boat journey takes about 12 hours. We arrived at the park, where we stayed in a big dorm, and spent two days exploring. We went on a guided night walk, during which I saw stick insects that had to be 8 inches long and bigger around than my thumb. We went to all four of the big show caves – Wind Cave, Clearwater Cave, Deer Cave and Lang’s Cave. The formations are beautiful, and we watched the millions of bats fly out of Deer Cave, in serpentine swarms, to eat mosquitoes at dusk. We also did an intermediate caving trip in Racer Cave, which was pretty incredible. After like ten minutes, I mentioned that I was already realizing that I wouldn’t be able to do the caving thing for more than a day, because the dark is so intense and sort of claustrophobic. Ryan was loving it, though, and after a few more climbs, I was too. It was hard to get good cave photos, since the lighting is tricky, but there are some on the Mulu site: http://mulupark.com/htm/cave_activities/index.htm It’s funny, I sort of booked the Mulu flights on a whim, and before we got there, I was sort of worried that we wouldn’t be able to occupy ourselves for two whole days in the park. But we actually could have easily spent another week, really – it would have been amazing to do the hike to the Pinnacles, and to climb Mulu summit, and to do more caving. I’d definitely like to spend more time in Borneo in the future. We didn’t even make it to see orangutans or the proboscis monkey, or any of the marine life! Yeesh.
We flew back to Miri after a few days, and spent the day walking around there. It’s a weird sort of boom town, with a petroleum museum and really nice, new roads. The best part for me was the public pool, which was 50m, with about 12 lanes, and there were only a few other people there. I was dying to swim all the time – I’m quite a water baby, and the heat was pretty overwhelming for a Canadian who saw snow on the ground when she left home. The guest house where we stayed in Miri deserves mention, too. It’s called Dillenia Guest House, and the Chinese family who runs is do a really great job. Super clean, good AC, free internet, and Mrs. Lee was super helpful in giving us tips on how to spend our day in town. Oh, and I ate an enormous (like, 1kg) dragonfruit that I bought in the market. Yum yum.
Back to KL the next day, where we went to Sentral station and met Manora! She came up by bus from Singapore. It was so great to see her cute little face again :) We took the train out to Anita (Allanah’s grandmother)’s apartment, where we showered and rested and were otherwise spoiled. Many thanks to Nenek for taking us in, feeding us, and giving excellent written instructions. Following her advice, we planned to go to Malacca for a day. It’s two hours by bus and it’s on the ocean, and has a really interesting mix of Portuguese, Chinese, English, Dutch and Malay culture. It’s recently been named a World Heritage City by UNESCO, and it seems like they’re expanding rapidly to create a hip, modern waterfront scene. We visited a beautiful temple, Manora bought an antique tile that she adores, and we went to a Chinese tea house where we drank so much chrysanthemum tea that it was uncomfortable. We weren’t able to get a bus back to KL that night, so we went to see the Wolverine movie (ha!) and found a hostel to stay in, until we got up at 6 to catch a bus back to the city. (Note: Manora is not a morning person, so kudos to her for dealing with it so well! Ha. And here is her album of Malacca photos:http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=250479&id=693995570&l=b747841b61 ) We spent a few hours at Anita’s, swimming in her gorgeous pool, and then went to drop our stuff at a hostel, as Anita was heading to Singapore. The three of us went to Central Market, where I bought a necklace about which I’d been thinking since I saw it there on our first day in KL, and Ryan got meditation pants for his retreat in Thailand. Then we celebrated our last night together by going out for what Manora called a “credit card dinner” at an Italian place. The next day, I left Ryan and Manora at KL Sentral station and began my… 40 hour (?) journey home.
Anyway, I’m sure that Ryan has lots of great photos, so I’ll share them when he gets around to uploading them. It was too short a trip, really, and I’m already thinking about when I might be able to head out again. But, for now, spring in Nova Scotia is lovely, and I’m starting back at lululemon this weekend, which is good, because my body and mind definitely need some yoga. Ryan has gone up to Thailand for a week’s meditation retreat, and then he’s back to Africa for a while longer. And Manora’s just started an internship with the Jane Goodall Foundation in Singapore!
I’ll share more photos when I get them, but definitely check out my facebook album. Hope you are all well!